‘I’m just a dad with an ice cream truck’
By Keri Luise
Families sit by the pool on a hot summer day and suddenly crave a refreshing ice cream snack. In local Crofton communities they know they can simply call their local ice cream man Trayton Covington, “Mr. Solo,” and he will come right over. One day recently, a Crofton community mom, Christy Barbaran, texted him to stop by, but due to the heat index he was forced to stay home because his truck is not air-conditioned.
Barbaran took action to help and on June 20, she created a GoFundMe account to raise money to buy Covington a new truck.
The 49-year-old is a father of two and runs a 1977 Ford E100 popsicle/ice cream truck that has been on the streets of Crofton for 30 years.
“I’m not really an ice cream man, I’m more of just a dad with an ice cream truck, and that’s how I act, that’s how I carry it,” Covington says.
Five years ago, Covington bought the ice cream truck from “Mr. Charlie,” who ran the Crofton route in the exact same truck for 25 years.
“He was a large shoe to fill, he was a legend in Crofton, and I did my best to just live up to his legend basically,” Covington says. “I put the words ‘USS Charlie’ on the ice cream truck to let people know that it’s the same ship, just a new captain.”
But with an older vehicle comes many problems. Covington is constantly running into barriers with brake issues, turn signal issues, steering column issues, and more— and that’s just this year.
“I put a whole brand-new braking system on the truck and I still sound like a rusty Transformer trying to stand up when I put my brakes on,” Covington says. “I’ve been fighting this fight for five years.”
This is not the first time the community has shown its support for Covington. About three years ago, his truck was robbed while he was in the bathroom at a local pool. Barbaran launched a GoFundMe that raised $1,640 to recoup Covington’s losses and repair his truck at that time, too.
“The community rallied,” Covington says. “But at the same time, I had the opportunity to give back to the community [because] Berliner Distributors, where I buy my ice cream and park my truck, donated a whole bunch of ice cream so I could go down and give ice cream to a community where a little girl had been shot at while she was at an ice cream truck.”
Covington says he is “so humbled” that this same community is now raising money for his new truck.
“Before they even started the GoFundMe, they started a CashApp fundraiser that raised $500,” Covington says. “And then on top of that, people have been walking up to my truck, not buying anything, just giving me money. I mean, I can’t put words to that.”
According to Barbaran, local moms in the Crofton Area Mommies Playgroup Facebook group speak of Covington often and “always jump to help when they hear his truck broke down again. It’s worth noting how willing the community of Crofton has been to help him.”
Covington is committed to regularly visit two pools, residentially requested at another two, and recently has picked up a fifth pool in the Crofton area.
“Five years ago I started something that I call Ice Cream Direct, and because it’s 2021 and everybody lives off their phones, everybody has my phone number,” Covington says. “I basically don’t have a route per se but at the same time I do stay dedicated to my pools because I am obligated there. And outside of that, I pretty much just follow my phone.”
Covington is hoping to put the money raised from the community GoFundMe fundraiser toward a Ford Transit 250 Tall. At press time, over $7,000 had been raised.
“USS Charlie will be retired, we will have a ceremony for it, I will throw a block party and introduce Mr. Solo Ice Cream as its very own entity,” Covington says. “I want something that I can take into the future.”
Covington takes his role in the lives of children seriously. Although he is the most active during summer, he made himself available for after-school treats for kids doing virtual learning during the pandemic. On his Mr. Solo website, he requests that all customers to the truck greet him and “in this small way, Mr. Solo reinforces the values of dignity, respect, and generosity.”
“The kids understand that in order to get anything off my truck, you have to say ‘Hi Mr. Solo,’ it’s just how we start a conversation,” Covington says. “I taught my kids that you start a conversation by saying ‘Hi,’ and then you go into whatever else you are gonna talk about.”
“If they say ‘Hi Mr. Solo,’ I give them some candy, even if they’re not buying anything. That way parents don’t always have to open their wallets when they hear the music. It gives the parents a break because then they can still bring the kids out to the truck to say hi and get something and they walk away and they’re not embarrassed in front of their friends or anything because everybody walks away with something.”
Covington’s values and life lessons do not go unnoticed in the community.
“A local mom posted in this [Facebook] group this week that her son had started a lemonade stand out front of her house. Mr. Solo stopped and was his first customer! He is a good man whose business could excel with a new truck,” says Barbaran.
“After the love that I’ve seen in the last few days, I want to give as much love back to this area that I service,” Covington says. “I want to be able to provide them with whatever they need instead of just popsicles and unfortunately broken promises because the truck has been on the road in Crofton for 30 years and maintenance on a museum is rather taxing. So I just want to be able to fulfill my obligation and bring smiles.”
Want Mr. Solo to visit your Crofton neighborhood or party? Text him: 240-701-7571. mr-solo.com
To support the GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/2f3mg5n6bc.